For The Answer
Week of January 20, 2003
Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Manager, Conservation Division, Water Resources & Conservation Department, SAWS, and Horticulturist
TULIP PRESCRIPTION FOR WINTER CHEER
Do you have post Holiday doldrums? See if these ideas from the Netherlands Flower bulb Information Center perk you up like they did me. I love spring bulbs, but they are difficult to grow here because of the mild winters and short spring. Forced bulbs and cut flowers are available at the florist and our supermarkets. Rather than buy more anti-depressants to deal with your mood, pick up some tulips or daffodils and try some of these ideas. My mood improved just by reading the ideas and I really felt good when I carried a bouquet home.
Flea Market Finds—Anything can be used as an indoor or outdoor planter—so long as it provides sufficient root space and drainage and is no longer needed for its original purpose. Found objects from an old washtub to a flea market tuba can do the trick!
In spring, prop up your “found” planter and add soil and pots of pre-sprouted bulbs (often called bulblettes) to create an instant spring blooming display.
Wildlife Center—For an unusual centerpiece or a treat for the kids, plunk a glass vase of tulips into an anchored bowl set in the center of a much broader glass bowl housing goldfish and “sea-greens.” Feed the fish as needed and add water to the tulips daily. Every week or so, replace the tulips with a fresh bunch, choosing different colors as your mood dictates. (Note the anchored center bowl allows removal of the tulip vase to freshen its water without disrupting the water level of the fish.)
A Sinking Solution—Did you know that many cut flowers can thrive under water? That’s right—totally submerged! Tulips certainly can. (So can lilies.) One flower per case is usually most attractive. To display a cut tulip under water, select a tall clear vase, then cut the tulip’s stem to a length which allows the whole flower and stem to fit within the vase. To hold the flower upright and under water, weigh down the stem base by wrapping a metal band around it or tying on a stone or fishing sinker with wire. Carefully lower the flower stem first into the vase. Hold the vase at an angle and slowly add cool clean water until the vase is filled. The bloom will last for up to a week in cold clean water.
Short Stuff—Tulips are famous for long graceful stems that bend and “dance” from the weight of their perfect, colorful flower heads. But truncated stems can also yield a pleasing result. Take a low elongated vase or container of clear glass. Select enough tulips of the same type to line up single-file for the length of the vase. Trim the stems to the exact height of the vase. Add only enough water to keep the lower stems submerged. Now place the tulips within to create a short-legged chorus line of egg-shaped color. Add water as needed. Remember, tulips are heavy drinkers!
Outrageous Colors—Whoever said that mixing vivid red, orange, and pink was taboo? Try it! Or whatever else that pleases you. When it’s time to make flower arrangements, you are master of your creations—what pleases you is perfect. Indeed, tulips in wild colors can look astonishing. Go wild. Add fussy pussy willows too, if the spirit moves you.
Variations on a Theme—For a particularly lush look indoors, create “stage settings” that show off multiple uses of the same kind of flower. For example, place a broad basket filled with pots of bright pink hyacinths on the floor by an entryway. Nearby, on a stool or table, feature the same or similar pink hyacinths in different, but compatible, vases of various styles and heights. The repetition is fun and unexpected.
Potted Pants & Plants—An old pair of jeans makes a terrific outdoor planter for a garden or yard display of hyacinths. Stuff the pant legs with straw and seat them on a ledge or chair in a prominent place for viewing. Add old boots or clogs at the feet. Set a large plastic garden pot inside the waistband and cinch it into place with rope or a belt. To this, add potting soils and potted hyacinths, water well and tamp down the soil for stability.
For the longest life, select potted bulbs that are newly sprouted or have buds that have not opened yet. Cut flowers should be buds just about to open. In the house, put the flowers in a cool spot away from heat registers. Avoid windy locations outside. Morning sun is the best light situation.